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Size Still Matters!
The 2004 Oslo 70mm Film Festival

Read more at
in70mm.com
The 70mm Newsletter
Written by: Sheldon HallDate: 1. October 2004
There are three annual events which every widescreen buff ought to have inscribed in his diary. The Widescreen Weekend event in Bradford has been a Spring treat every March for a decade now, with its rare three-strip Cinerama presentations the regular highlight. Last year, the Bologna Film Festival added a CinemaScope strand to its July line-up of restorations and archival rediscoveries, which this year expanded to include VistaVision and Todd-AO. But only one international festival specialises exclusively in 70mm. It has been held at the Norwegian Film Institute’s Cinemateket in Oslo each August since 2000. 

The festival is programmed by Jan Eberholst Olsen, who explains its origins: ‘The idea came about when I was working in the Archive. I found they had lots of 70mm titles that were rarely if ever screened. I had approached the Cinemateket programmer for years to screen them, but I was told they were faded, overlong and there was no audience for them; the films just didn’t fit into normal programming. But Vigdis Lian, the new director of the Museum Department, was a fan of 70mm. We had individual screenings of three films and she was very enthusiastic about them. With support from her I approached the Museum with the idea of doing a season or festival of 70mm films, inspired by the Widescreen Weekend in Bradford which I had been to for several years.’ 
 
Further in 70mm reading:

The First Oslo 70mm Festival 2000

The 9th Oslo 70mm festival 2010

Internet link:


Cinemateket
Dronningensgate 16
0152 OSLO
N O R W A Y

Phone to box office:
+ 47 2247 4589
The front of the cinema. Image by J P Gutzeit

The goal, according to Jan, was not to compete with Bradford but to complement it. ‘I wanted to do it for our own audience. We did it in the summer when people were on holiday, several months after Bradford. Summer is the worst period for the Cinemateket, so it was something completely different. The programme for the first year was a combination of films I thought would do well with films I really wanted to see.’ The inaugural event lasted a week, showing fourteen films (see below for a complete list of titles), and proved very popular with both local viewers and the several foreign visitors – including myself – who made the effort to attend. Its success was aided by extensive local newspaper coverage. ‘At the beginning of August the Press had nothing to write about,’ says Jan, ‘so we got a very good Press and still do.’

From its second year – the most successful thus far in terms of ticket sales – the festival was extended to ten days, spreading over two weekends. ‘Most people said we should screen the films twice so there are more chances to see them. We also did more advertising: everything is on a limited budget, but we have a good relationship with the Oslo municipal cinemas, so we have access to their poster stands to get the festival known to more people.’ Now confirmed as a regular annual event, the 70mm season is one of the Cinemateket’s most popular attractions.
 
The cinema. Image by J P Gutzeit

Compared to Bradford and Bologna, whose tight schedules make each day a crowded marathon of over-running screenings and rushed coffee breaks, Oslo is a fairly leisurely festival, with only two films each weekday – usually starting at around 6.00pm and 8.30pm – and four per day at weekends. Of course, the length of the typical 70mm feature (which often includes an intermission) still means a tight turnaround between shows, with the last film of the evening often finishing close to midnight. However, the city’s compact size and excellent public transport system prevent this from being a problem for most visitors. Those unable to stay for the whole festival – which in 2004 ran to twelve days – can usually catch most of the key films in the space of a week. A season ticket, permitting the holder to see all the screenings, is available at the bargain price of 300 kröner – around £25.

The only film to have been shown in all five festivals thus far is the Panavision blow-up " Doctor Zhivago", which still regularly sells out (‘It’s what people associate with big-budget 70mm films’), while making three yearly appearances each have been " Lawrence of Arabia", " Baraka" and the Norwegian-made short " A Year Along the Abandoned Road" ("Året Gjennom Børfjord"). ‘People haven’t seen these films for many years,’ comments Jan. ‘Each festival is a mixture of classic titles that people want to see with rare – maybe ultra-rare – titles to attract an international audience, which has always been for me a very inspiring thing. Every year we try to do something more to attract different customers.’ 
 
J P Gutzeit in Oslo

The season is held in the larger auditorium of the NFI’s twin-screen Film House. It has a flat but satisfyingly large screen, which in 2001 was augmented with variable masking, allowing Ultra Panavision prints to be screened in their correct aspect ratio of 2.76: 1. Seven films have now been screened in the anamorphic format, with " Battle of the Bulge" and " The Greatest Story Ever Told" (respectively shown cropped and squeezed in the first year) due to be repeated in 2005 in their proper dimensions, along with " Ben-Hur", as part of a whole day devoted to Ultra Panavision. The technical challenge of the festival is another major attraction for Jan. ‘Because it’s been so successful, each year we’ve invested in new equipment: new lenses for Ultra Panavision, new lamp-houses, new screen masking, a new magnetic sound amplifier. From a technical standpoint it’s interesting for us to try to screen different formats as close to the original presentations as possible.’

As well as screening films from its own vaults, the Cinemateket maintains a close relationship with the Swedish and Danish Film Institutes and often exchanges prints with them. Sweden, in particular, has a large collection of 70mm films which are very rarely screened in that country. Perhaps the most remarkable discovery of the ongoing festival is the fine shape in which many of these vintage prints – most often interred in the archives soon after the completion of their commercial run – have survived. Considering the badly faded, heavily spliced condition typical of most original 70mm prints seen elsewhere, it is astonishing that the Scandinavian archives have kept so many of theirs in a superb state of preservation. Films which one had never expected to see revived on a big screen at all – such as " The Agony and the Ecstasy", " Circus World" and " Black Tights" (the last in its original French with Swedish subtitles) – turned out to be near-pristine, with superb colour and little physical damage.

In addition to providing dedicated fans with the opportunity to see rare films under optimum conditions, according to its programmer the festival has had the salutary effect of educating general audiences in the virtues of wide-gauge movie presentation. ‘People now understand that 70mm is better: even when it’s a blow-up, there’s better sound, better picture quality.’ The archives too have learned to appreciate the value of their collections. ‘Because it’s been such a success we may in future be more careful with our 70mm prints than we used to be. There are maybe 10,000 foreign prints in our archive, but these are among the most precious ones. In many archives they don’t take good care of 70mm, maybe because the people in charge don’t care for that kind of movie.’

In recent years, several Hollywood studios have undertaken ambitious restorations of wide-gauge titles, but even the cost of simply making a new print from existing materials can be exorbitantly expensive. The sumptuous new print of " Lord Jim" screened at both Oslo and Bradford in 2004 cost around $43,000 just in printing expenses, and when shipped to Norway was insured at Columbia’s insistence. Those in charge of the archives take particular pains when approached to allow one of their own films to be borrowed and screened abroad. Comments Jan: ‘It’s still possible for other users to borrow prints as long as we know they’re handled with the utmost care. Many of these titles can’t just be printed again. If a cinema wants to show one of our prints I’d want to do a check on it first. Putting them on a platter is not the best way to treat 70mm.’
Hej Thomas

Jag har kommit hem efter en helt otrolig helg i Oslo.

I lördags såg jag:
The Last Valley,
Le Mans,
The Sound of Music
Lawrence of Arabia.

I söndags:
Doctor Zhivago
Hello, Dolly!
Patton

I måndags:
The Sand Pebbles

Samtliga kopior var i mycket gott skick. MEN 3 av dem (Sound of Music, Hello, Dolly! och Patton) var direkt importerade och totalt restaurerade kopior från USA. Med en bild så klar och krispig att man inte trodde sina ögon.

Det var som att gå på 8 premiärer. Like in the GOOD OLD DAYS!!!

Jan Olsen på nfi gör ett fantastiskt jobb!!! Och jag längtar redan till nästa år.

Du skulle varit där!!!

Ha de'
Sebastian Rosacker
1. September 2004
 

Titles screened at the Oslo 70mm Film Festival, 2000-2004:

 
2000

Around the World in Eighty Days
Battle of the Bulge
The Bible – in the Beginning…
Doctor Zhivago
Exodus
The Fall of the Roman Empire
The Greatest Story Ever Told
Lawrence of Arabia
My Fair Lady
Play Time
Ryan’s Daughter
The Sound of Music
Star!
West Side Story

 
2001

Baraka
Ben-Hur
Cheyenne Autumn
Doctor Zhivago
The Flaming Years (Povest’ Plamennykhlet)
Grand Prix
Ice Station Zebra
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Krakatoa, East of Java
Mutiny on the Bounty
Pathfinder (Veivisieren)
Spartacus
Where Eagles Dare
 
2002

Airport
Anna Karenina (USSR, 1968)
Baraka
Can-Can
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Doctor Zhivago
Far and Away
Far from the Madding Crowd
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
Khartoum
Mackenna’s Gold
Solomon and Sheba
That’s Entertainment
Vertigo
A Year Along the Abandoned Road (Året Gjennom Børfjord)
 
2003

The Agony and the Ecstasy
The Alamo
Black Tights (Les Collants noir)
Brainstorm
The Cardinal
Circus World (The Magnificent Showman)
Doctor Zhivago
Lawrence of Arabia
Porgy and Bess
Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines
Waterloo
West Side Story
Who Framed Roger Rabbit
A Year Along the Abandoned Road (Året Gjennom Børfjord)
 
2004

2001: A Space Odyssey
Baraka
Doctor Zhivago
Dune
The Great Race
The Hallelujah Trail
Hello, Dolly!
The King and I
The Last Valley
Lawrence of Arabia
Le Mans
Lord Jim
Patton
The Sand Pebbles
The Sound of Music
A Year Along the Abandoned Road (Året Gjennom Børfjord)
The Young Girls of Rochefort (Les Demoiselles de Rochefort)
 
2005 (provisional programme/ wish list)

Battle of the Bulge
Ben-Hur
Doctor Dolittle
The Greatest Story Ever Told
Hamlet
Oklahoma!
The Shoes of the Fisherman
Sleeping Beauty (Disney)
South Pacific
Sweet Charity
Top Gun
Tron
War and Peace (Voyna I Mir)
 
 
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Updated 18-04-10